Our final fight night event at Fight Island for this year is a banger of a card, headlined with the rebooked bout between Chan Sung Jung (The Korean Zombie) and Brian Ortega. This rivalry heated to a boiling point at UFC 248 when Ortega was kicked out of the event for assaulting Zombie’s translator. It’s safe to say all fight fans are highly anticipating this one.
The card has a number of other draws, as we have former Strawweight champion Jessica Andrade making her move up to 125 pounds, and Thomas Almeida’s long awaited return.
Chan Sung Jung vs. Brian Ortega (FTW)
When you’re on a card with The Korean Zombie (16-5, 6-2 UFC) your chances of a FOTN bonus go wayyyy down. In his namesake zombie fashion, Jung marches forward with the ability to eat any shot and keep on swinging. If you watch his fight at first, it may seem he might just be mindlessly plodding forward without any game plan. In fact, Zombie has good fight IQ and knows which shots are the best for him. He has powerful hands with drastically improved boxing from the early days of his career, with his last three victories all coming by first round (T)KO. Of course, don’t forget about his impressive jiu-jitsu, as he has secured 8 of his pro wins by submission.
Brian Ortega (14-1, 6-1 UFC) will be making his first appearance inside the Octagon since his defeat to then-champion Max Holloway almost two years ago. “T-City” is a jiu-jitsu prodigy with a specialty off of his back, snatching up seven pro wins in submission. His boxing fundamentals saw improvement over his UFC career, handing Frankie Edgar his first stoppage defeat prior to his Fight of the Night effort against Max. Ortega keeps up a good volume in his striking and manages distance well, but has proven to be quite hittable, especially against opponents with a reach on him.
For both of these fighters’ ground expertise, neither is much of a takedown artist. In fact, Zombie averages more takedowns per fight than his opponent, as well as holding the much better takedown defense. To Ortega’s credit, he is more than happy to be on his back, which he will gladly pull guard to do. Though Ortega is no slouch in the boxing department, he pales in comparison to Korean Zombie, whose work rate and powerful combos will likely put Ortega is a point of desperation after a couple rounds with his trademark pressure and volume. Unless Zombie decides to go for a whirl inside the dangerous guard of Ortega, he has all the skills to hand Ortega a decisive defeat.
Take the Shot: Chan Sung Jung via Knockout
Ciryl Gane vs. Ante Delija (HW)
Cyril Gane (6-0, 3-0 UFC) tore through the Heavyweight scene in Quebec in MMA after transitioning from professional Muay Thai. “Bon Gamin” has speed, power, and incredible technique, but a lack of experience in MMA. There are a lot of unknowns about him, but I have loved what I have seen, as he utilizes all eight striking points, attacks the head and body, and does expert combinations. He has addressed quite a few of those unknowns in his Octagon tenure, going the distance successfully while also scoring two submissions.
Ante Delija (17-3) will be making his short-notice debut here after Shamil Abdurakhimov withdrew, once again cancelling his and Gane’s scheduled bout. Delija is a well-rounded threat, with 13 finishes and seven in submission. His grappling and control are most notable, as he is a ruthless arsenal of ground and pound and a versatile submission offense. I believe that Delija is a fantastic addition to the Heavyweight division, but this a tough draw in his debut. Gane has displayed everything you want to see from a top prospect, especially at Heavyweight where he proved he can outlast and out volume his opponents if need be. I see Gane sticking to the feet and finding a decision or late finish.
Take the Shot: Ciryl Gane via Decision
Jessica Andrade vs. Katlyn Chookagian (FLW)
Jessica Andrade (20-8, 10-6 UFC) is an absolute beast, making the move up to 125 pounds for the first time in her storied career. Although standing at a mere 5’1, she was a feared contender even at Bantamweight, but since her move to Strawweight she has torn through almost everyone, going 5-3 with her only losses to former champions. The 27-year-old Brazilian has one punch KO power, uncommon for Strawweights and a talented BJJ background which she built her striking off of. Her greatest struggle has been volume strikers who can piece her up from distance, as we saw with both Joanna and Thug Rose in the match Andrade finished with a killer slam, pictured right.
Katlyn Chookagian (14-3, 7-3 UFC) has consistently been at the upper echelon of the Flyweight division, even after her loss to dominant champion Valentina Shevchenko early last year. Chookagian likes to get her wins in with a high volume striking style and although she doesn’t pack the most power she has the overwhelming volume and technique to make every fight close. Her cardio and quick movement make her a problem for anyone to deal with.
The most notable advantage to be addressed her is the ludicrous size Chookagian will have over her Brazilian counterpart, eight inches in height with another six in the reach department. That will give her a leg up in avoiding the power bombs that Andrade hurls, but will still have some trouble keeping up with the barbaric pace “Bate Estaca” puts on. In addition to that, Chookagian’s grappling defense is pretty rudimentary with few ways to regain her footing once grounded. If and when Andrade grounds her opponent, her top notch jiu-jitsu will slice through Katlyn’s guard pretty quickly, possibly scoring a submission.
Take the Shot: Jessica Andrade via Decision
Jimmy Crute vs. Modestas Bukauskas (LHW)
Jimmy Crute (11-1, 3-1 UFC) came in hot off the Contender Series and racked up two finishes before succumbing to a submission of the year contender to Misha Cirkunov. The 23-year-old Crute is an excellent kickboxer who utilizes his incredibly quick kicks and punches to fire off shots, relying more on accuracy than all out strength. “The Brute” has some nice grappling and sneaky scrambling skills, and has shown no hindrance towards pursuing grappling when his opponent has a weakness there. The key hole in his game is in his pacing. Crute does well when he is dictating the pace and not lulled into a brawl, where he can be tagged or taken to the mat.
Modestas Bukauskas (11-2, 1-0 UFC) made his successful debut just a few months ago, toppling Andreas Michailidis with a barrage of elbows before the referee stepped in between rounds. “The Baltic Gladiator” has stopped all but one of his wins with eight by knockout. His striking is quite technical and bases itself around Modestas keeping his range, firing short kicks in combination with his long power straights to do damage.
This is a fantastic bout between two prospects I am very high on, but Crute has displayed all the skills necessary to take out the former Cage Warriors champ. Crute’s quick entries to the pocket in addition to his fast combos spell danger for his Lithuanian-born opponent, especially with his superior utilization of kicks. Where Crute really shows himself here is in the grappling. His vigorous takedown output and snappy submission skills give him many options to ground the fight and even more ways to finish once he establishes top position.
Take the Shot: Jimmy Crute via Submission
Thomas Almeida vs. Jonathan Martinez (FTW)
Thomas Almeida (22-3, 5-3 UFC) will be returning to the sport’s biggest proving ground after nearly three years away from the cage. After opening up his UFC stint with four straight wins, “Thominhas” went 1-3 with two stoppage losses. Almeida is a knockout artist of the highest order, holding seventeen knockout victories over his pro career, never shying away from flying knees or brutal step-in elbows. Although he has four submissions on his resume, Almeida’s typical strategy for his ground game is to simply not engage in it, which he has done quite well in his UFC tenure. His struggle up to this point has been his striking defense and ability to get clipped in a brawl when he is chasing the finish.
Though Jonathan Martinez’s (12-3, 3-2 UFC) Octagon debut against Andre Soukhamthath went south in a decision, but made it up with his massive upset over Wuliji Buren and a FOTN earning third round KO against Pingyuan Liu. He really impressed me in his last fight against Frankie Saenz, using his counter-wrestling and growing jiu-jitsu ability masterfully against the superior wrestler before teeing off on his opponent for the late finish. His striking is very unorthodox, throwing high amplitude kicks and knees in addition to his punches. Yet his scrambling ability is what sets him apart in my opinion, being able to reverse a position when it seems nearly impossible.
Although this match takes place at 145 pounds due to its late-replacement nature, this is an honorary Bantamweight matchup, and one that is sure to be fireworks at that. Both fighters will be looking to engage on the feet with Martinez patrolling to outside and throwing up high-amplitude kicks and flying knees, while Almeida will look to get his hands and pressure going. That pressure and crowding of Martinez’ power strikes will work wonders for him here, as he is able to corral Martinez, who typically works with a size advantage, into the cage. From there, I expect it to be fairly academic, as Martinez’ low hands and willingness to trade bombs will set him up for an Almeida (T)KO, so long as the Brazilian manages to keep his head above water, strategically speaking. Simply put, Almeida should be able to handle the less experienced “Dragon” so long as he does not give into his brawling nature too much and open his chin up.
Take the Shot: Thomas Almeida via Knockout
This fight card is sure to be a banger, and that’s not even including the fantastic set of prelims we have on deck, featuring the highly anticipated debut of 17-0 Mateusz Gamrot.
See you on Saturday, Freaks!